Diocese of Savannah honors Latinas for their service
For the past eleven years the Diocese of Savannah has recognized long-standing service to the Catholic Church in south Georgia by conferring the Bishop Francis X. Gartland Service Award on honorees nominated by their pastors. The Catholic Diocese of Savannah includes 78 parishes in 90 counties of South Georgia.
Last month, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. bestowed the Gartland Award on 84 nominees during a ceremony held in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Savannah.
In his homily preceding the award ceremony, Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer said: “ The honorees of this award are men and women who have devoted extraordinary service to their local parish, their deanery and the greater Church for many years.”
Bishop Gartland was born in 1805 in Dublin, Ireland and was named Bishop of the newly erected Diocese of Savannah in July 1850. A true missionary bishop, he traveled throughout the diocese which at that time included all of Georgia and part of northern Florida.
When a yellow fever epidemic struck the city of Savannah, Bishop Gartland visited the sick tirelessly, administering the sacraments, until he, himself, contracted the fever and died in 1854.
The gold and blue award pin combines elements of Bishop Gartland’s episcopal coat of arms with elements from the shield of the Diocese of Savannah. His motto, Vincit Veritas, or “Truth conquers,” is inscribed on the pin.
Corina Hinojosa Florez was honored for her work at the Sacred Heart Church in Vidalia, GA. where she has been a member since 1983. Currently she is the Director for Religious Education for Sacred Heart parish and for its mission parish, St. Andrew the Apostle in Reidsville. Throughout the years she has served as a teacher, councilwoman and translator.
She continues to be unselfishly involved in organizing events and festivities. Mrs. Florez is presently the program director for Southeast Georgia Communities (SEGCP) a non-profit organization which advocates towards the dignity and self-empowerment of low income persons. Her work as a director at SEGCP has led to free health screenings, assistance with burials, and forums concerning immigration legislation for many parishioners.
“Corina is a genuinely caring and compassionate person. She volunteers her time and talents tirelessly,” says Fr. Ben Dallas, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. “She has a warm and giving heart and extends a helping hand to anyone and everyone she meets, impacting our church and our community in a very special way.”
After receiving the Gartland award, Flores was asked why service was such an important part of her life.
“Our mother used to be a social worker with the Texas Migrant Council and we grew up in a migrant farm worker family,” she said. “I always admired my mother because her English was very limited but she was still out there helping people, making sure they got what they needed. SEGCP is just something that we as former migrants saw the need for in our community. We got started 15 years ago and we haven't stopped yet. I guess we're going to keep going as long as God gives us the will.”
Two Reidsville area residents are also recipients of the 2011 Bishop Gartland Award for outstanding service to the Catholic Church in South Georgia.
Savannah Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer conferred the Bishop Gartland Service Award on Maria Estrada and her daughter Erika Estrada Gonzalez on November 20. Mrs. Estrada and Mrs. Gonzalez are members of St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in Reidsville.
Maria Estrada and Erika Gonzalez have been members of St Andrew the Apostle Church since 1997. After experiencing a nearly fifty-percent growth in the number of parishioners at this small mission church, Maria and Erika volunteered to start Religious Education classes. Aside from being teachers Maria and Erika have organized their parish to be more united and harmonious. They have organized liturgical groups, encouraged interactivity with their mother church of Sacred Heart in Vidalia, and encouraged fellow parishioners to help renovate existing space for use as classrooms.
“Maria is an extraordinary lady,” said Fr. Ben Dallas, Parochial Administrator for St. Andrew the Apostle Church. “Her love for the Lord has made it possible for her to carry out many duties and responsibilities to help the mission church of St. Andrew’s grow in spirit and in number. She is a good mother and a good example not only to her daughter and family but also to others.”
“Erika, even at a young age, is a very responsible and organized person and uses her many talents to generously serve the church,” said Fr. Dallas. “She is a wonderful Christian example to her peers at work and the young people in the parish. Her assertiveness and willingness to serve the church in all aspects is invaluable